New York Crude Price Hits 2.5 Year High

New York Crude Price Hits 2.5 Year High
New York oil surged today to its highest level in two-and-a-half years as Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi's forces regained ground against rebels and as US jobless claims fell, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May, struck USD 107.65 a barrel -- the highest level since late September 2008.

It later stood at USD 106.94, up 22 cents compared with yesterday's close.

In midday London trade, Brent North Sea crude for May dipped 11 cents to USD 117.25 a barrel, but analysts said the upward trend remained.

The market won some support as Libyan rebels battled Muammar Gaddafi forces today at the oil town of Brega, while the West backed off from arming the rag-tag fighters and pushed for a political solution instead.

"I think again investors are back looking at the unrest in Libya, so that is the reason why oil has hit two-and-a-half year highs," said Ong Yi Ling, investment analyst for Phillip Futures in Singapore.

Renewed gains by Gaddafi's men indicated prolonged civil strife in the war-torn oil-exporting nation.

Correspondents citing opposition sources said fighting around Brega, about 800 kilometres east of Tripoli, resumed at daybreak.

The rebels had the previous day been beaten back by heavy shelling from Kadhafi's forces when they launched a counter-offensive at Brega, the new front line in their bid to topple Kadhafi that began on February 15.

Ong added that a third consecutive week of declines in US jobless claims also renewed investor confidence in the economy of the world's largest oil consumer.

The number of first-time claims for unemployment insurance payments dropped to a seasonally adjusted 388,000 in the week ending March 26, from an upwardly revised 394,000 the week before, the Labor Department said yesterday.

Later today, at 1230 GMT, traders will switch their attention to further data from the United States.

The Labor Department is expected to report a forceful rise in hiring, with the release of its unemployment survey for March.

Economists expect 203,000 private jobs were created last month, providing further evidence that the world's largest economy is on the mend. That would be the sixth-straight month of private payroll growth.

But the unemployment rate is expected to stay at 8.9 percent -- after a precipitous drop since November -- as more people rejoin the jobs market.
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